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Dear GMAT Aspirant, You need not swim against the tide

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Dear GMAT Aspirant, You need not swim against the tide [#permalink]

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New post 08 Aug 2016, 10:09
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Today, I listened to a series of recorded lectures on GMAT by some GMAT instructor. The lectures pertained to Sentence Correction. On listening to the lectures, one thing became clear to me: the aim was to somehow solve the questions correctly as fast as possible.

The aim makes sense? Isn't it?

Well, not really.

The instructor asked the student to scan through the option statements and look for the differences, and then try to understand the sentence to figure out which options can be eliminated on the basis of the differences. The sessions were laden with tricks and tips that can help one solve some questions in as few as 10 seconds! Of course, there were exceptions to those tricks. Fortunately, those exceptions were also discussed to some extent, but then the student was left to figure out whether question he is going to see on the actual test will follow the trick or be an exception.

All these sessions pertained to Sentence Correction. I am not sure how people teach CR (Critical Reasoning) or RC (Reading Comprehension). Probably, they have tips and tricks for these sections too.

Now, why am I writing this article?

Probably, because I felt a bit (or more accurately, quite) sad while watching the videos. All the focus was on solving the questions as fast as possible without any on student learning. There was no focus on building the concepts of the students. It was if the success could be achieved directly without a pursuit of excellence, without mastery of the subject.

Of course, success is our aim. A good score on GMAT is our aim. And for a good score, we need to solve the questions within a limited time frame. However, how do we achieve it? Through tips and tricks? By learning shortcuts for every conceivable question type?

This approach is something I call "swimming against the tide". Why do I call it so? The answer lies in simple logic.

What is the objective of GMAT?

The answer to the above question will be easier to understand if we look at an even more fundamental question first.

Why does GMAT exist?

It exists as an entrance test for MBA programs worldwide. Right? And it is accepted by the likes of HBS, Stanford, and Wharton.

What will these B-schools be looking for in the candidates?

A mastery of shortcuts?

Or A mastery of skills that will contribute to success during MBA and, after that, in business.

The second one. Right?

And wouldn't that be the objective of GMAT?

To provide these B-schools with a reliable indicator of these skills in the candidates.

Now, what are the skills that are required to succeed in MBA or business or that GMAT tests us on?

I think the most fundamental skill, if it can be called a skill, is the ability to reason deeply. Basically, what is your depth of reasoning? When you understand anything, do you understand it in depth? or do your understand it just superficially?

And this is what GMAT is testing you on. It tests your depth of reasoning by asking you to apply very fundamental concepts of Math and English in difficult situations. Your ability to apply the concepts on difficult problems is directly proportional to your concept clarity. The clearer your concepts are, the more successfully you'll be able to apply them on GMAT problems.

So, logically, our focus while preparing for GMAT should be on building our concept clarity.

However, we're struck in shortcuts and tricks. And why are we stuck in shortcuts and tricks?

Because when we look at a GMAT paper, we don't see it as a test of reasoning; we see it as a test of English and Math questions because, as we reason, every question on GMAT is indeed either an English or a Math question. Such superficial is our understanding that we cannot see past the surface of the questions to understand their crux! Quite comically, this superficiality of our understanding prevents us to even see that the test is a test of depth of reasoning. And we continue to prepare in ways that don't build our reasoning skills. We just want to clear the test through shortcuts and tricks, and this way is rather enforced by many test prep institutes, many of whom have faculty who haven't taken GMAT themselves and even don't have the reasoning calibre to teach higher order reasoning skills tested on GMAT.

Now, this approach of shortcuts and tricks is what I call "swimming against the tide". Why? Because you want to score high on the GMAT through these shortcuts and tricks without building your concepts, and GMAC (the council that conducts GMAT) is up against you and wants to make sure that a student's score reflects his or her ability, not his recollection of shortcuts and tricks.

Essentially, you are swimming against the tide and purpose of GMAT.

Who wins?

If GMAT is indeed worth its salt, it will.

Now, you don't really need to swim against the tide. There is another way to prepare for GMAT. The way is to build your concepts that are tested on the GMAT. And once you master those concepts, your confidence will soar, and you'll deserve and eventually get a high score on the GMAT. And trust me, this building of concepts is going to be useful not only for the GMAT but for your entire life. The learning that you gain during your GMAT prep will help you in your business school and beyond.

And in this way, you'll swim with the tide of GMAT, not against it.
_________________

Website: http://www.GMATwithCJ.com

My articles:
My experience with GMAT (Score 780) and My analysis of my ESR
Three pillars of a successful GMAT strategy
Critical Reasoning and The Life of a GMAT Student
The 'Although' Misconception
Dear GMAT Aspirant, You need not swim against the tide

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Re: Dear GMAT Aspirant, You need not swim against the tide [#permalink]

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New post 09 Aug 2016, 11:23
ChiranjeevSingh wrote:
Today, I listened to a series of recorded lectures on GMAT by some GMAT instructor. The lectures pertained to Sentence Correction. On listening to the lectures, one thing became clear to me: the aim was to somehow solve the questions correctly as fast as possible.

The aim makes sense? Isn't it?

Well, not really.

The instructor asked the student to scan through the option statements and look for the differences, and then try to understand the sentence to figure out which options can be eliminated on the basis of the differences. The sessions were laden with tricks and tips that can help one solve some questions in as few as 10 seconds! Of course, there were exceptions to those tricks. Fortunately, those exceptions were also discussed to some extent, but then the student was left to figure out whether question he is going to see on the actual test will follow the trick or be an exception.

All these sessions pertained to Sentence Correction. I am not sure how people teach CR (Critical Reasoning) or RC (Reading Comprehension). Probably, they have tips and tricks for these sections too.

Now, why am I writing this article?

Probably, because I felt a bit (or more accurately, quite) sad while watching the videos. All the focus was on solving the questions as fast as possible without any on student learning. There was no focus on building the concepts of the students. It was if the success could be achieved directly without a pursuit of excellence, without mastery of the subject.

Of course, success is our aim. A good score on GMAT is our aim. And for a good score, we need to solve the questions within a limited time frame. However, how do we achieve it? Through tips and tricks? By learning shortcuts for every conceivable question type?

This approach is something I call "swimming against the tide". Why do I call it so? The answer lies in simple logic.

What is the objective of GMAT?

The answer to the above question will be easier to understand if we look at an even more fundamental question first.

Why does GMAT exist?

It exists as an entrance test for MBA programs worldwide. Right? And it is accepted by the likes of HBS, Stanford, and Wharton.

What will these B-schools be looking for in the candidates?

A mastery of shortcuts?

Or A mastery of skills that will contribute to success during MBA and, after that, in business.

The second one. Right?

And wouldn't that be the objective of GMAT?

To provide these B-schools with a reliable indicator of these skills in the candidates.

Now, what are the skills that are required to succeed in MBA or business or that GMAT tests us on?

I think the most fundamental skill, if it can be called a skill, is the ability to reason deeply. Basically, what is your depth of reasoning? When you understand anything, do you understand it in depth? or do your understand it just superficially?

And this is what GMAT is testing you on. It tests your depth of reasoning by asking you to apply very fundamental concepts of Math and English in difficult situations. Your ability to apply the concepts on difficult problems is directly proportional to your concept clarity. The clearer your concepts are, the more successfully you'll be able to apply them on GMAT problems.

So, logically, our focus while preparing for GMAT should be on building our concept clarity.

However, we're struck in shortcuts and tricks. And why are we stuck in shortcuts and tricks?

Because when we look at a GMAT paper, we don't see it as a test of reasoning; we see it as a test of English and Math questions because, as we reason, every question on GMAT is indeed either an English or a Math question. Such superficial is our understanding that we cannot see past the surface of the questions to understand their crux! Quite comically, this superficiality of our understanding prevents us to even see that the test is a test of depth of reasoning. And we continue to prepare in ways that don't build our reasoning skills. We just want to clear the test through shortcuts and tricks, and this way is rather enforced by many test prep institutes, many of whom have faculty who haven't taken GMAT themselves and even don't have the reasoning calibre to teach higher order reasoning skills tested on GMAT.

Now, this approach of shortcuts and tricks is what I call "swimming against the tide". Why? Because you want to score high on the GMAT through these shortcuts and tricks without building your concepts, and GMAC (the council that conducts GMAT) is up against you and wants to make sure that a student's score reflects his or her ability, not his recollection of shortcuts and tricks.

Essentially, you are swimming against the tide and purpose of GMAT.

Who wins?

If GMAT is indeed worth its salt, it will.

Now, you don't really need to swim against the tide. There is another way to prepare for GMAT. The way is to build your concepts that are tested on the GMAT. And once you master those concepts, your confidence will soar, and you'll deserve and eventually get a high score on the GMAT. And trust me, this building of concepts is going to be useful not only for the GMAT but for your entire life. The learning that you gain during your GMAT prep will help you in your business school and beyond.

And in this way, you'll swim with the tide of GMAT, not against it.

Good explanation on the purpose of GMAT. Hope GMAC uses the title of this topic in AWA.
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Posts: 45
Re: Dear GMAT Aspirant, You need not swim against the tide [#permalink]

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New post 11 Aug 2016, 23:59
I found this post interesting. Especially you have an awsome way to begin the story. Now coming to messages, I completely agree with most of it. Somewhere in this practice to reach higher level, I have lost the perspective of 'what GMAT actually tests?' and my friend even if you are right, you are a minority. Here are my arguments why I make that statement

1) Host of GMAT instructors give excessive importance to shortcuts (Ex: Solve SC questions in 1 minute so that you will be able to dedicate more time in CR, RC - On contrary, there are several SC problems, which cann't be solved in one minute + add 20% to anxiety in actual exam. CR read the stem, read the argument and start POE process or may be pre think the answer - all in 2 minutes. My friend no body says - comprehend the argument first before pre-think. In Math situations are even worse. One of the test prep companies put very difficult questions and says there is a shortcut available to solve under 2 minutes)

2) Look at the "Share the GMAT Experience" section of this forum and you will notice that invariably all most all of them score over 700. That makes me a fool as I am not in the league. To add to misery, many of the title says 7xx score in 2 months preparation of verbal score from 3x to 4x in one month, so and so

3) There is a growing discussion in this forum about official questions from GMATPrep, OG not enough to get a 700 score. Very few on the side of defending official questions level and standard. Last time I appeared GMAT, I practiced only from Official questions in Math section, I scored Q49. I am scared even to initiate a discussion on this. For verbal, I am not as strong as Math. I will depend on other experts for verbal. But I have my share of misery to share.

4) The stamina, positive attitude, confidence are the least used words in the forum. At least less than shortcuts and tips.

I can go on. But you get the point.

-South city
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Re: Dear GMAT Aspirant, You need not swim against the tide [#permalink]

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New post 13 Aug 2016, 02:49
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SouthCity wrote:
I found this post interesting. Especially you have an awsome way to begin the story. Now coming to messages, I completely agree with most of it. Somewhere in this practice to reach higher level, I have lost the perspective of 'what GMAT actually tests?' and my friend even if you are right, you are a minority. Here are my arguments why I make that statement

1) Host of GMAT instructors give excessive importance to shortcuts (Ex: Solve SC questions in 1 minute so that you will be able to dedicate more time in CR, RC - On contrary, there are several SC problems, which cann't be solved in one minute + add 20% to anxiety in actual exam. CR read the stem, read the argument and start POE process or may be pre think the answer - all in 2 minutes. My friend no body says - comprehend the argument first before pre-think. In Math situations are even worse. One of the test prep companies put very difficult questions and says there is a shortcut available to solve under 2 minutes)

2) Look at the "Share the GMAT Experience" section of this forum and you will notice that invariably all most all of them score over 700. That makes me a fool as I am not in the league. To add to misery, many of the title says 7xx score in 2 months preparation of verbal score from 3x to 4x in one month, so and so

3) There is a growing discussion in this forum about official questions from GMATPrep, OG not enough to get a 700 score. Very few on the side of defending official questions level and standard. Last time I appeared GMAT, I practiced only from Official questions in Math section, I scored Q49. I am scared even to initiate a discussion on this. For verbal, I am not as strong as Math. I will depend on other experts for verbal. But I have my share of misery to share.

4) The stamina, positive attitude, confidence are the least used words in the forum. At least less than shortcuts and tips.

I can go on. But you get the point.

-South city


Shortcuts and Tricks

I agree with you SouthCity that a great majority of instructors lay more emphasis on shortcuts and tricks rather than on concepts and understanding. I believe there are two reasons for the same:

1. The students demand it. Yes, I believe this is a very significant reason. It has become our mindset to look for shortcuts in every area of life, not just GMAT. We just want to short-circuit our way to the success without going through a long journey of capability-building. So, when teachers and institutions see this crowd of students or 'customers' coming to them, they adjust their methodology accordingly.

2. A good number of the teachers who teach GMAT do not themselves understand what is actually tested on the GMAT. And even if they understand that it is a test of reasoning, they do not themselves have the capability to teach 'reasoning' to the students. It's a no-brainer that it is much easier to teach shortcuts and tricks than to help build the reasoning power of students.

Now, however, even though many companies do preach shortcuts and tricks, there are many test prep companies which focus on building concept clarity. Rather, all the top companies such as Manhattan, Veritas, and e-GMAT lay emphasis on building concepts. Of course, they also teach you tricks and shortcuts, but I believe, and as I have seen, these shortcuts are not the core part of their offering; the core part of their courses does lay emphasis on the understanding of concepts. Of course, not all of them teach the same way, and not all of them work wonders for every student. But each of these companies works for a good segment of the population. And when these people become successful, they spread positive news about the companies. And that is how the companies gradually become more and more popular.

Stories of 7xx scores in 1-2 months

As far as your point of stories of people scoring 7xx points in 1 or 2 months is concerned, you need not compare yourself against those people. Everyone has a different story. Different people take different time to master the concepts or GMAT. For example: this debrief

i-got-crushed-today-196949.html

This person scored 550 after preparing for 8 months, a significant amount of time by any standards. But he didn't give up and eventually ended up scoring 700. I have a student who scored less than 400 on GMAT on his first attempt. When he came to me and told me that he wanted to score a 700, I told him that it was going to be a long journey. And he is gradually improving. Every session, he focuses on learning, enjoys when he gets questions right, and chooses not to turn temporary disappointment into worry when he gets questions wrong.

Now, if this person started comparing himself with these people who score 7xx in 1-2 months, he would never reach anywhere. However, he has a positive attitude. Instead of measuring himself against others, he measures himself against his past and just focuses on growing himself. So, that is what I'll suggest for every GMAT test taker.

Official Questions vs Questions from other sources

I think official questions can be enough if you practice in a deliberate way. I explain about Deliberate Practice in my article (Second Pillar): how-to-ace-gmat-222074.html#p1710469

Now, even though I'll warn you against solving questions from any other sources, I think you can solve questions from Manhattan, Veritas, and e-GMAT. I believe these companies take pains to make sure their questions are very close to official questions.

Stamina, positive attitude, confidence

I believe the attitude is a very important ingredient of a success as I explain in my above-referred article. Doesn't matter whether others focus on these things or not, you are right my friend that these things are very important not only while preparing for GMAT but in life in general.

Lastly, thank you for writing such a relevant post. It talked about many points close to my heart.

Regards,
CJ
_________________

Website: http://www.GMATwithCJ.com

My articles:
My experience with GMAT (Score 780) and My analysis of my ESR
Three pillars of a successful GMAT strategy
Critical Reasoning and The Life of a GMAT Student
The 'Although' Misconception
Dear GMAT Aspirant, You need not swim against the tide

Re: Dear GMAT Aspirant, You need not swim against the tide   [#permalink] 13 Aug 2016, 02:49
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